During my days on the trading forums, I rarely thought of my trade partners as friends.
But...friends? Almost never.
The blogosphere has been an entirely different story.
Although I still have yet to meet any of you in person, I do believe quite a few fellow bloggers have become friends of mine during my time around here.
I can't tell you how many times I've mentioned the term "friend of the blog" within my posts. In a way, I consider anyone who has ever read one of my posts as a dime box "buddy", I guess.
Without a doubt, one of the better blogger friends I've made has been Mark, author of the awesome blog "This Way to the Clubhouse...".
As it happens, I found an unexpected surprise package waiting for me when I returned from Vegas a couple weeks ago, courtesy of Mark himself. (Which should tell you how behind I am with my trade posts.)
Like all the other mailers he's sent my way, this batch of cardboard managed to pack quite a punch.
One of Mark's "signatures" is his ability to find neat little oddballs that I could've never discovered on my own.
This "Baseball Wit" oddity of the very old-timey Cincinnati Red Stockings franchise is a perfect example of that.
Just look at all that awesome facial hair.
Lost in the utter surprise of this trade package was the fact that I'd recently requested a few specific cards from Mark in the recent past.
Once this pair of cardboard fell out of the mailer, it all came back to me.
Mark had pulled these from one of those interesting "Collector's Cache" repack boxes that have been all the rage lately.
I've long considered Mark Grace's 1988 Donruss card to be one of my personal favorite rookies in the history of cardboard. I couldn't help but jump at the chance to acquire the Leaf version of "Gracie".
Catastrophically ugly design aside, I considered Vince Coleman's 1996 Donruss issue as a "must-have" in my book. After all, the man they called "Vincent Van Go" spent a half-year with the Mariners in '95, totaling just 40 games in Seattle.
If I ever find myself with an extra fifteen bucks in my pocket, I'll definitely have to pull the trigger on one of those mega-repacks.
They sure do look like fun.
Although he's been a perpetual source for random cardboard awesomeness, Mark always manages to hit a few of my more specific mini-collection needs as well.
In fact, he inspired me to start a brand new binder theme with this latest batch.
Even though I'm not the first blogger to do so, I think I may just have to start an "award" collection. MVP plaques, World Series trophies, Silver Slugger awards...you name it, I want it.
I'm not entirely sure what award is featured on the front of Brandon Cromer's 1992 Classic issue. Given that Cromer turned out to be a career minor-leaguer, I'd guess it wasn't all that spectacular.
One of my more traditional mini-collections involves the world of throwback jerseys. The threads on Mr. Nen there look to be a nod to the Christy Mathewson era of Giants history.
Although I doubt I could ever know for sure, my oldest mini-collection may well be my prized "pitchers at the plate" cards.
I'm still trying to come up with a better name for that specific group of cardboard. The "at the plate" aspect may sound like I'm ignoring all the basepath-themed shots of pitchers, which is far from the truth.
When we're talking about hurlers in offensive situations, cards like that sliding Don Robinson may well be the best of all. Then again, anything featuring a "role reversed" pitcher is a definite gem for me.
Shots like those even manage to make cards of Roger Clemens cool.
Happily, I also found a couple cards of recent "binder inductee" and fellow paisan Anthony Rizzo inside Mark's generous mailer.
Although I love Rizzo's 2013 Heritage card, I can't help but notice that the bat on that gigantic Rookie Cup almost seems to be acting as a Q-tip of sorts.
And now, try as I might, I can't unsee it.
It will forever be the "Q-tip" card in my collection, whether I like it or not.
While everything I've shown in this post has been great, I think Mr. Neshek ended up earning "Best of the Package" honors.
As odd as it might seem, Bowman, of all brands, actually captured a superb action shot with this one. It perfectly features Neshek's quirky sidewinding delivery.
Unfortunately, there simply aren't a lot of Pat Neshek cards out there. The constant influx of star-studded cards doesn't leave much room for middle relievers such as him in today's checklists. (Although you may have noticed his place on my current "Dime Box Dozen" list.)
This is just the third card of Neshek in my binders, and the first of the serial-numbered variety. I still have yet to nab the base version of this one for my collection.
I'm not sure how many Pat Neshek collectors exist these days, but I'm sure proud to be one.
My good friend Mark further emphasized that very fact.
When all is said and done, that's exactly what people like Mark have become to me during my time in the blogosphere.
Not only that, but card-collecting friends.
What could be better?